Todd cracks organic eggs against the far edge of the red-hot frying pan and slides them down the ridges of the crystal bowl, beating the crap out of yolks as senior citizens at the end of their ropes wait with open lips. Wealthy elderly bellies protruding over homemade rattlesnake-skinned belts reflecting sunbeams, agitate his diabetic retinopathy from the buffet line. The Sunday spread is enormous: jumbo shrimp, smoked salmon, chicken, roast beef, bacon, sausages, salads, and deviled eggs. This is heaven. The dream job for a young omelet chef in his early twenties in Scottsdale Arizona, just looking to make a name for himself. Todd sprinkles salt and pepper into the Caesar bowl, his marijuana pipe full of resin bulging out the back pocket of his Khakis. He is the king of the omelet bar.
The hungry patrons stretch themselves like an angry rattler across the grill room. Earlier, the poor residents stuffed their Styrofoam containers with provisions; they only have fifteen minutes to do so and when that grandfather clock strikes noon, Harley, the new dining room manager, ushers them away with his fists, winking at the waiters, an indication to close the lids of the steel buffet dinner stoves which glimmer like cauldrons during monsoon lightning. Harley only gives a damn for the rich who tipped him under the table in fresh, enveloped hundred-dollar bills for Christmas, and it’s these men–dressed in green and pink like drunken Easter eggs–that he shakes hands with when the antique clock tolls twelve times. He laughs as they dunk rubbery shrimp into cold cocktail sauce. Their wrinkles are folds of money for the pimple-scarred, middle-aged Harley.
Todd’s eyes shimmer with Visine beneath bourbon, fluorescent overhead lights. His armpit hairs are soaked, but Harley makes him wear three undershirts to prevent sweat drippage. The eggs must be protected at all costs, says Harley. The melting butter is foaming and Todd is lonely; his only friend the damned crisping bacon and diced onions and red bell peppers. Todd adds Portobello mushrooms, juicy tomatoes, chorizo sausage, and watches the snakes hover over his damp shoulders. He is the youngest of three omelet chefs and the other two are already cracking jokes at half-drunken retirees, but Todd only pays attention to his creation. He is an artist of the egg. A culinary genius requires concentration.
Women who will live decades longer than Todd’s poor leukemia black-lunged grandmother are observing orange-headed bartenders mixing Smirnoff and Ketel One with Tropicana orange juice. Hold the ice. Todd is hung-over, the echoes of old farts eddying with stale nineteenth-century humor twisting and ebbing and curling like Phillips screwdrivers in his ears. Todd peels cucumbers and tends to his omelets as he watches the mahogany stairs, waiting for his sugar mama to approach. She must be freshening up in her apartment. She never smells like mothballs and gets her bikini area waxed every Friday so it will be fresh as the organic ingredients Todd tosses atop the steaming eggs in the red-hot skillet.
The vegetables are wheeled in their chairs to the front of the line. Many have an oxygen tank strapped to their backs like astronauts about to be launched to the moon. Other more diplomatic gentlemen use Viagra as their rocket ships, hitting on the widows sitting beneath the stained glass windows leading to the swimming pool and seventeenth flagstick of the eighteen-hole putting green.
The eggs settle and the frothy texture begins to glisten, glowing brighter than the frying pan, like landing pads of high-quality cocaine rising from a spoon of water and baking soda. Pros can cook anything with the finest ingredients and a visceral atavistic hunger, insatiable as it often is. The sun reflects off the arms of the saguaros, and the man with no legs wheels himself up to the edge of the table, where he bumps his stumps against the diced jalapeños. The daughters of whores are in their best dresses from Macy’s. The Mexican gardener is cleaning the bougainvilleas from the deck of the sun chairs. The pool cleaner is picking his nose, his rod in the deep end and his penis protruding from his denim jeans. Todd wonders if Harley would tell him to wear two pairs of underpants–if only he had control over the landscaping. The dirty looks and creases on the slacks attract the glare of rainbows bouncing off sun-faded Persian carpets. Many of these men fought in the Second World War. They are good men–maybe not the greatest generation–but a good one nonetheless. The women were once whores or virgins, and they still are.
The eggs and vegetables begin to steam and shine. Todd scrutinizes and surveys a retired NSA agent who speaks eleven languages, licking his fingers, duck sauce dripping down his wrist. Where is she? Todd wonders. She must be plucking those obstinate hairs from her nostrils or between her fake eyebrows painted on as if Picasso made love to her in a dream. A fatal kiss could instill fear in a whale’s vagina, and often does. Is it ready yet young man? They ask as the line coils itself out past the bar and the non-alcoholic beers are so plentiful on the shelves which are too tall to dust. The top shelf liquor is half-empty, as always. Some of the wigged residents were sitting in the back of the plane on Flight 92 that fateful morning when the towers disintegrated and Todd was cooking crystal meth with a spoon for the first time, sitting on an ashy mattress wishing he could stop fingering his gerbil. Many of the old widowers only have dogs. Many of them are lions, bearing with the predatory jungle of being fat, ugly, or too poor to court a princess, let alone a queen. The women are worse. They are cougars, the grandmothers of cougars, with collagen-injected lips and laser-zapped, Botox faces and the only thing natural is their saggy wrinkled tits, where the labyrinthine hieroglyphics lead to a tomb of a mummified African pharaoh. This is the lost city of Atlantis.
Todd lifts the eggs with the silver spatula and places them on the plate of the bulimic lady at the front of the line who always cuts her ex-husband, even before he had an affair with the blue-haired neighbor in room 336 which inspired the tip of his penis to get sliced with a steak knife. (She failed and only trimmed the dyed pubic hair as rumor has it.) Gossip is more common than the cold, whether you listen or not, and the warm desert breeze makes Todd begin to sweat, knots in his stomach, and he feels the trickles dripping down the sides of his arms underneath the hairs that he will never shave.
He hopes his sugar mama will leave him something in her trust. The estate is worth more than a thirty-minute orgasm and a multiple martini breakfast. Todd can make a shaker out of two egg shells. Todd spies out the corner of his retinas as she descends the spiral wooden staircase like that lady in Titanic who always shows her breasts and pussy in the movies–the one with the accent and the acting ability and the knowledge (if not good sense) to despise that stupid Celine Dion song that one can never peel from the wax of human eardrums–not even with a Phillips screwdriver.
Todd’s heart is sinking as the retired lawyers and heart surgeons try to conceal their silent farts, but the gas mixes with the light of the roast beef and Todd can almost see it stirring up beneath the delectable spotlight where Harley cuts a fat piece for the multi-millionaires. She does not look him in the eyes. There is nothing to say. She is the invisible cloak being sewn for the emperor. She can see everybody in the room, hear the second hand of the mahogany grandfather clock ticking, except her peripheral vision does not permit her to focus on the omelet table. She is wearing the ruby necklace laced with the diamonds she found on the beach when her grandfather was digging for sand dollars with blistered toes.
Todd rides the waves of their breath, musical notes of a gastro-orchestra, some beautiful but most hoarse and fleeting. His companions are finishing up their final batch of omelets and Todd losses himself in the Glade trash bag stuffed with broken egg shells. He can hear her wrinkles jingling amid the jewelry and his stomach rumbling as the marijuana pipe falls onto the carpet like a suicidal pilot as the Asian man begins choking on octopus Clamato cocktail at the table where wrinkleless women drink Kamikazes. He can smell her dying before she hits the floor. Her blue head is cracked open, then closed, red broken nose, and her eye is hanging out of the socket as he rocks her against the martini-stained carpet. There is chocolate sauce dripping from her lips. The vanilla perfume lingers in Todd’s unkempt muzzle hairs as Harley begins charging across the floor–though without anticipating the cord for the buffet and roasted beef spotlight hunk–and ripping it from the wall–the charge sends him into an emerald and crimson and ultimately black and empty convulsion. His last words were, Watch those goddamn omelets, pothead.
Todd tends to the sinking ship, his inheritance plummeting beneath the wrinkled melanoma of her nipples and slip full of blood and the salt from the lid of the margarita mug. Robbed of radiant youth, the white widow peers into Todd’s eyes; a sinking shipping vessel with broken mast. Todd dives for that pearl, as the gardener jumps through the plate-glass window and the pool cleaner splashes into the chlorine and yellow jackets–the cicada of the summer sinking with his boner. The skeletal frame of the lady as an iron maiden frozen in time, and if we journey to that space between the omelets, where the plates still orbit the spices like obstinate comets of the Milky Way Galaxy, we can see an egg melting beneath the setting sun.